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Interview Preparation

Successful interviews don't just happen. Learning interviewing skills and being fully prepared will help you make a winning impression and get the job you want. The interview is not just about you but about how you connect with the interviewer(s). Here are seven steps to a successful interview:

1. Research the Company

Find out as much as possible about the company and be prepared to respond to interview questions. Also, be ready to ask the interviewer(s) questions about the job and the company. This can help you stand out from other candidates.

  • Research the company, to gather information about the background, mission, culture, services, and products.
  • Read the company’s recent press releases for insight into projected growth and stability.
  • Review trade and business publications. Seek perspective and a glimpse into their industry standing.
  • Visit the organization’s website and use online tools like Firsthand or The Muse.
  • Use Glassdoor and LinkedIn to find people who work at the company and what they say about the company.
  • Develop questions about the job and organization from your research and ask when the interviewer asks if you have any questions.

2. Compare Your Skills with the Job Description

Analyze the job description to identify the skills the company is seeking in a candidate. Compare and match your skills to the job description and practice formulating interview responses that will showcase how you would be a great fit for the company.

  • Analyze the company and job description for desired education, knowledge, skills, and strengths. What knowledge, skills, and abilities are required?
  • Compare your qualifications to the job description and be prepared to connect the dots. Which skills do you have? Where does the position fit within the organization?

3. Prepare & Practice Your Responses

While you can’t predict the questions you’ll be asked in an interview, you can prepare and practice relevant responses and stories that showcase your skills, knowledge, and abilities. Here are some tips to help you prepare and practice answers to commonly asked questions:

S.T.A.R. + L Technique Stories

Behavioral questions can be difficult, but you won't be as nervous if you prepare and practice relevant STAR stories that showcase your knowledge, experience, skills, and how you handled specific work situations and challenges. Use the STAR framework to master the art of interviewing with storytelling.

  • Situation: Provide context and background information. Where, What, When?
  • Task: Describe expectations. What needed to be done and why?
  • Action: What did you do? How did you do it? What tools did you use?
  • Result: Explain the positive results. Did you improve any processes? How did you resolve the problem?
  • Learned: What did you learn from the experience, and how will that come into play in the future?
    • S.T.A.R Framework — behavioral questions and response preparation.
    • StandOut — practice and improve your interviewing skills. Log in with your FPU email address.

General Interview Questions & Sample Answers

Additional Question & Answer Resources

  • Top 50 Interview Questions & Answers — provides a list of common, behavioral, professional, education, and salary interview questions and detailed sample answers.
  • UptoWork — gives 20 common interview questions and answers
  • Glassdoor Interview Guide — provides tips to prepare for the various interview stages.
  • Philosophy Statement — provides questions to consider when preparing your Philosophy Statement for Teaching, Counseling, or Education.

4. Plan What to Wear

Your appearance will be evaluated in an interview. Here are a few tips to give that first great impression:

  • Wear conservative business attire such as a neutral-colored suit (black, navy, gray) and professional shoes.
  • Err formal. If instructed to dress “business casual,” use good judgment. Try to dress one level higher than the best-dressed person at that company.
  • Dress to impress. Have an overall neat and clean appearance.
  • Fingernails should be neat and trimmed.
  • Make sure to have no visible body piercings or tattoos.
  • Use minimal fragrance, empty your pockets, and ensure your shoes are cleaned and polished.

Women

  • Wear a suit with a jacket — not a dress
  • Conservative hosiery (no designs)
  • One pair of earrings
  • Shoes with conservative heels
  • Use makeup sparingly (keep it natural)
  • If you have long hair, ensure it is neatly pulled back.

Men

  • Wear a suit with a jacket, long-sleeved dress shirt, and tie
  • Wear dark shoes (black and laced up)
  • Make sure to be clean-shaven
  • Do not wear rings aside from a wedding or class ring

Additional Interview Attire Resources

  • FPU’s Career Closet — the Career Development Center offers free gently used interview and business casual attire.
  • Dressing Well — a personal style, professional dress, and executive image resource
  • LiveCareer Dress for Success — market yourself to a potential employer with a professional image.

5. Plan What to Bring

Knowing what to and not to bring to your interview is important. Bring a padfolio with the documents noted below to share with the interviewer.

  • Extra resume copies (high-quality paper).
  • Notepad and pen.
  • A list of references.
  • A list of questions to ask the interviewer.
  • If you are a graphic artist or are in the advertising field, bring samples of your work.

6. Non-Verbal Communication

Your interview starts when you enter the company’s building. Pay attention to your non-verbal communication, as this speaks volumes. Be polite and greet everyone. Your behaviors may be reported to the interviewer.

In the Waiting Room

  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • Project confidence, smile, establish eye contact and use a firm handshake when introducing yourself.
  • Posture counts; sit up straight yet comfortably.
  • Be aware of any nervous gestures such as foot-tapping or fidgeting.
  • Do not cross your arms or legs.

During the Interview— facial expressions provide clues to your feelings, so manage how you react and project a positive image.

  • Try to relax and be confident.
  • Be honest and authentic.
  • Be attentive and maintain good eye contact (don’t stare).
  • Balance your listening and speaking skills. Listen carefully and ask for clarification if you do not understand a question. Consider your answers before speaking and address all aspects of the interviewer’s questions.
  • Use a strong voice to project confidence and don’t say anything negative.
  • Use good grammar, not slang.

7. The Close and Follow-Up

Toward the end of an interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Not asking questions may make you seem unprepared or uninterested. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the job and the company. Ask the questions you prepared based on your research. Being strategic with your questions helps you assess if it’s a good match for you.

Sample Questions to Ask:

  • In your opinion, what makes this organization a great place to work?
  • What are the challenges a person might face in this position?
  • What are the most important criteria for success in this position?
  • Tell me about the organization's culture.
  • What do you most enjoy about working for this organization?
  • Can you tell me your approach to (something you read about in your research)?

Avoid Asking:

  • About salary or benefits.
  • What is already on the website.
  • Time off for vacation.
  • Work schedule.

Closing the Interview

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer(s) for their time and consideration. Ask for a business card(s) from the interviewer(s). If you are sincerely interested in the position, tell them so and what added value you can bring to the job. Show them how you’re a good fit.

“From what you have been telling me about this position and what I already know about your company, I know that I have the right mix of experience [be specific] and education to bring value to this position. Based on these past experiences, I can ‘ramp up’ quickly and be on board with projects within the first few weeks”.

Follow-Up

Follow up the job interview with a thank you email and a thank you letter to each interviewer to reiterate your interest in the job, your qualifications, and how you will contribute to the role. Send a thank-you email to each interviewer within 24 hours. Also, send a hand-written thank-you note. The thank-you note will arrive a couple of days after to keep you fresh in their minds.